From time to time we get asked – is there any value in paying for advertising anymore?
Because the internet has created so many apparently ‘free’ ways for businesses and brands to market themselves – running a website, SEO, social media – people sometimes assume that advertising has become an unnecessary expense.
As marketing professionals, we always advise clients that there is still very much a role for paid advertising. In the digital space, perhaps the most important form of advertising to emerge is so-called paid search – the practice of paying for listings on search engine results pages such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo! Search.
For the purposes of this article, we will focus on Google’s paid search service, Adwords, although the advice we offer can be applied across the board. We will explain why Adwords can play an important role in digital marketing campaigns and how to ensure you get the most out of it.
Why pay for search listings?
The first question people ask about paid search is simply – why? When you get listings on search engines for free anyway, why is it ever necessary to pay for them?
The problem with so-called ‘organic’ search – the results that Google’s algorithms compile for any given search someone carries out – is that it is intensely competitive. There are tens of millions of websites and web pages out there all jostling for attention, and research has shown that if you don’t get one of the top five spots on a search results page, you hardly get anyone clicking through to your site.
More than half of a business’s website traffic is likely to come from search engines. Which means that if you want to increase the number of visitors you get to your site, it is very important to be hitting those top 5 search results places. That is why so much attention is paid to SEO, which boils down to doing everything you can to optimise your site so Google algorithms rank it highly.
SEO is a long game. Google recognised years ago that many brands would appreciate a quicker fix, and that it could make money by offering one. So it came up with Adwords, which allows you to pay for sponsored listings.
How to maximise Adwords ROI
Like SEO, Adwords operates around keywords, which nowadays would be better off described as search phrases as individual words are often irrelevant. Instead of optimising your webpage to contain certain keywords your target audience is likely to use in search, in Adwords you bid to ‘buy’ certain terms. You then create an ad which appears when those search phrases are used. Every time someone clicks on your ad, you pay the amount you bid – which is why it is called pay per click, or PPC, advertising.
The great thing about PPC is that you only pay for traffic to your site, not for the ad listing itself. But still, many businesses will complain that they are not getting any click-throughs at all and that Adwords doesn’t work.
With our wide range of Adwords marketing services, we always emphasise to clients that PPC only works if:
- You bid for search terms that people are actually using, otherwise your ads will hardly ever appear;
- You bid for search terms that are most relevant to your audience, otherwise they will appear to people who are not interested in what you have to offer;
- You create ads that are relevant to the search terms, for the same reason as above.
How do you achieve these three criteria? There is no substitute for hard data and thorough research. Successful Adwords campaigns require meticulous planning, testing as many different combinations of keywords as possible, and bidding on those that give you the best click-through to cost ratio.
There is one final crucial factor in getting a good ROI from Adwords. Although we talk a lot about click-throughs from paid search, that is not the ultimate goal you want to achieve. A click-through does not directly equate to a purchase – you pay for someone clicking on your ad, but you don’t necessarily earn any money from them visiting your site.
To convert traffic into sales, you also need to think about the quality of the pages people land on. A common mistake businesses make is to have all PPC ads link to the same landing page, for example, their website homepage.
If someone has clicked on an ad to buy a pair of trainers, they want to be taken to a page where they can view and buy trainers. If they land instead on a generic page and have to start navigating around a site, they are likely to lose interest and leave.
If you want to maximise the number of sales you get from Adwords traffic, you should ideally aim to have a different landing page for every keyword category and product type.